The Baptism of Jesus – Conclusion
John’s baptism of Jesus brought John’s ministry to an end and it began Jesus’ ministry… but it served one more purpose. It established a model for Jesus’ followers to repeat so we can identify with our Lord. Just as Jesus received water baptism to fulfill all righteousness, so are His followers called to do the same. As Jesus commanded at the end of Matthew, in a passage commonly called the Great Commission…
Matthew 28:18-20 New King James Version (NKJV) **
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
** All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
The Greek word translated baptize means to dip. So the concept of baptism is to be immersed or dipped into water. Furthermore, notice that in the text in verse 16 Matthew describes Jesus as “coming up” from the water. You don’t come up out of a sprinkling experience. Plus if all John wanted to do was “sprinkle” people with water, he wouldn’t have needed to travel all the way to the Jordan river to baptize those seeking repentance. From all evidence, the biblical act of baptism is always and still is today, only by the immersion of the entire body into water. Sprinkling some part of a person’s body does not constitute a baptism. That is merely a man-made ritual with no spiritual significance. And therefore, it doesn’t substitute for a baptism.
Furthermore, only a proper baptism fulfills righteousness, as Jesus said to John. Because only full immersion in water can serve the purpose God had in instituting baptism, both for Jesus and for us. The imagery of baptism is very specific and quite profound. Paul explains the meaning of baptism in Romans 6:
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,
Paul makes a comparison between baptism of Jesus and Jesus’ death and resurrection. Paul is talking about our baptism by the Holy Spirit. When we placed our faith in Jesus Christ, confessed Him and were saved by our faith, we received the Holy Spirit. Scripture calls the moment the Holy Spirit came to dwell inside us the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Every believer has this experience at the moment they come to faith in Jesus. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is how we are born again spiritually.
So just as our Lord had the Spirit of God land upon Him, so have we received the Holy Spirit also. Jesus blazed the path that we follow by faith in Him; and Paul says that the baptism of the Holy Spirit resulted in our spirit being identified with Christ. So that by our faith, the acceptance of the one true Christ has been credited to our heavenly account.
Beginning with His death on the cross… Paul says we have been baptized into Christ’s death, so that when the Father looks upon His children he no longer sees our sins. By the arrival of the Holy Spirit, we are united with Christ in His death so that our sins rested on Christ as He hung on that cross.
But more than that, Paul says we have also been united with Christ in His resurrection. Once again, because the Holy Spirit has come to live in us, we will follow in Christ’s footsteps. So, though Christ died, yet He lived again, rising from the dead by the glory of the Father. And so will those who have placed their faith in Him. By the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the moment we believed in Jesus, we immediately came to share in His death and in His resurrection. Therefore, we don’t need to die to pay for our own sins.
Christ’s death has paid that price for us and we don’t need to worry that the death of our body will be the end of us. Because the same Spirit Who raised Jesus’ body will raise us.
We share one more aspect of baptism with Jesus…no one can see the moment the Spirit came to live in us. That crowd that surrounded Jesus didn’t see the Spirit. They didn’t hear God’s voice. They only saw Jesus’ body enter the water and come back up.
Similarly, when you came to faith in Jesus Christ, no one saw a dove landing on you. You didn’t start to glow, or levitate. You believed, you confessed, you were saved! The Spirit came to make His home in your heart, but that moment was invisible to everyone.
But just as the Father didn’t want Jesus to remain a secret, neither does He want Jesus’ followers to remain invisible.
He wants us to testify, and to help us accomplish that purpose, He has given us the beautiful picture of water baptism. As a believer enters the water to be baptized, he or she is telling a story, a spiritual story, a story that can only be told in pictures. The water of our baptism represents the earth, the ground in which we bury dead bodies. So as a believer is lowered into the water, we’re picturing the burial of a body. And as we raise that person up out of the water, we’re picturing resurrection. That’s a physical picture of what has already happened by the Spirit in our hearts. Just as Jesus was immersed in water to represent His immersion by the Holy Spirit, we too are called to do the same. We enter water to testify that we have been baptized by the Holy Spirit into Christ’s death and resurrection. No one saw the Spirit but anyone can see the water.
Now perhaps this is the first time you’ve understood the baptism of Jesus in this way, in the way the Bible explains it. The baptism Jesus commanded for His Church, following in His footsteps.
- First, it’s an act to fulfill righteousness, meaning to obey God. Water baptism does not make us righteous any more than Jesus’ baptism made Him righteous.
- Secondly, water baptism is a coming out party of sorts. It associates us with Jesus, declaring us to be followers of the Messiah. Just as Jesus’ water baptism announced Him to the world as our Messiah.
- Thirdly, our water baptism inaugurates our public service in the body of Christ, just as it began Jesus’ public ministry. Our opportunity to serve the Lord is set loose when we obey the call to be baptized. Because the first command every believer receives is to be baptized.
But if we will not obey His first command, Jesus isn’t going to move on to step #2. He will wait with us expecting us to do what we’ve been asked.
Finally, just as baptism of Jesus’ marked a transition between John’s ministry and
Jesus’ ministry, so does our baptism mark a transition. Every believer has an old life and a new life, an old self and a new self. Depending on when you came to know Jesus, that old life might have been rather brief or it might have been decades. But regardless, every believer has a before and after story. The moment of your faith in Jesus is a private dividing line between those two worlds.
But your water baptism is the public dividing point, the moment when you embraced your new life and declared it was all you wanted. Every believer is expected to follow the Lord’s footsteps in baptism as in everything else He has given us for righteous living. That’s why we’re called Christians…the word literally means “little Christs.” It was originally coined to mock Jesus’ followers, but the church soon embraced it because it’s a perfect description of what we want to be.
Now perhaps when you were an infant your parents took you to a church and had someone sprinkle water on your head. They dressed you up, took pictures, got a certificate and had a party. And thereafter, they told you that you were baptized. If that’s the only kind of “baptism” you’ve ever received, then on the authority of Scripture I must tell you that you have never been truly baptized. If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ but you have never walked into the water to be baptized as Jesus commanded, then you still owe Jesus a baptism.
1 Corinthians 12:13
13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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